Onderstaand artikel is gepubliceerd in/published in: The Pioneer, 2-11-2003      

MNCs get together against child labour

IANS/ New Delhi

In a major initiative, child rights activists and some of the world's biggest seed companies are joining forces to end child labour in southern India's cottonseed fields, reports OneWorld.net.

According to MV Foundation, a child rights organisation based in Andhra Pradesh, a committee will shortly be formed to help enforce the ban. A statement issued by human rights groups India Committee of the Netherlands, Amnesty International Netherlands, Novib/Oxfam Netherlands and FNV Mondiaal says seed majors have agreed to work with MV Foundation to eliminate child labour from the cottonseed industry.

The decision to form a committee was taken by seed multinationals Monsanto, Emergent Genetics, Hindustan Lever, Syngenta, Advanta and Proagro, a subsidiary of Bayer, and some leading Indian seed companies at a meeting in Hyderabad.

It is estimated that nearly 450,000 children in the 6 to 14 age group work in cottonseed fields in India. "We are now going to follow up the MNCs pledge to end child labour," said Shantha Sinha, secretary of MV Foundation. "Our first step would be the formation of the committee."

"It is a big step because MNCs have earlier denied that children were being employed in the industry," says Sinha, this year's winner of the Magsaysay award conferred on Asian social activists. The MNCs' move follows a report in May that some of the biggest global companies were employing children in hybrid cottonseed farms. The report, titled Child Labour and Transnational Seed Companies in Hybrid Cottonseed Production in Andhra Pradesh, said 9 out of 10 workers in cottonseed fields were children.

The report said that the children worked in hazardous conditions and were paid less than half a dollar a day. The companies which took part in the meeting were members of the Association of Seed Industry (ASI). The ASI also passed a resolution to discourage the practice of child labour in hybrid cottonseed production. In March 2004, a meeting of MNC representatives and the MV Foundation would be held to take stock of the progress.


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